Experiencing unexplained cranky mood? Irritable temperament? Fatigue and irregular periods? You could be experiencing menopause.
What Is Menopause?
In simple words, menopause is the end of your periods!!
In a broader sense, menopause is any change you experience before, during and after the end of periods and indicating the conclusion of your reproductive years.
It is divided into three stages:
Perimenopause: This phase lasts until you reach the point where your periods stop completely. During this phase, your ovaries make less oestrogen, and you experience hormonal changes. Perimenopause may start several years before you hit your menopause. The nearer you are to your menopause, the faster your oestrogen levels fall, and you begin to experience the menopausal symptoms clearly.
Menopause: During this phase, your ovaries stop releasing eggs, and you do not get periods for over a year, and you are neither pregnant nor sick. Once you hit this phase, you cannot become pregnant.
Post-menopause: This phase may last for many years after menopause, but in this stage, the menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes diminish. However, as you age, health risks associated with loss of oestrogen increase.
What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?
- Irregular periods
- Dry skin
- Frequent urination
- Vaginal dryness
- Troubled sleep
- Sore breasts
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Muscle and joint pain
- Low sex drive
- Hot flushes
- Dry vagina
- Mood swings
- Mental confusion
- Osteoporosis signs
What Are the Causes of Menopause?
The chief cause of menopause is the decline in sex or reproductive hormones – estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate the menstrual cycle, release eggs and are essential for pregnancy. However, when the ovaries stop releasing the eggs, it results in menopause.
Other reasons could be, hysterectomy (when the ovaries are removed) or when the ovaries are damaged from treatments, such as chemotherapy.
What Are the Treatments for Menopause?
Menopause is a natural phenomenon. So, it does not require any treatment. However, some treatments are recommended to relieve the symptoms and prevent any chronic condition that may be related.
Treatments for menopausal symptoms include:
- Hormone Therapy
Your doctor may recommend hormone or oestrogen therapy to relieve menopause symptoms such as hot flashes. In case your uterus is not removed, you may be suggested progestin along with oestrogen. This treatment cannot be continued for long because it may have adverse effects, such as breast cancer and cardiovascular risk. Therefore, your doctor will recommend the lowest dosage of oestrogen and for the shortest time to lessen the signs.
- Vaginal Oestrogen
Your gynaecologist may recommend oestrogen in the form of vaginal cream or ring or tablet to treat vaginal dryness caused by menopause. The vaginal tissues well absorb the small amounts of oestrogen in the creams/tablets/rings, prevent any discomfort experienced during intercourse and lessen urinary symptoms.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
A low dosage of antidepressants SSRIs and Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI) are often used off-label to treat hot flashes. These drugs are also beneficial for women who suffer from mood disorders.
- Non-hormonal Solutions:
Even though Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms, it cannot be recommended for all the women. Also, quite a few women folks are hesitant to undergo oestrogenic treatment. Therefore, non-hormonal solutions are making a wave as an alternative to HRT.
As a part of non-hormonal solutions, your gynaecologist may prescribe capsules made of fermented soy derivative and Flaxseed (excipient) capsules and other natural products.
Also, mild doses of Gabapentin and Clonidine are recommended for treating hot flashes and high blood pressure. For osteoporosis, you may be recommended to take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Consult with your doctor and get yourself thoroughly checked for any severe symptoms. Remember, menopause is not a disease. It is a natural occurrence that will be experienced by all women. Instead of becoming embarrassed, talk about menopause openly with your family, especially with your partner, and walk through this journey happily to a new period-free life!